Skirting boards can make all the difference when decorating your rooms, taking them from looking half-done to neatly framed. But how do you install these all-important skirting boards?

When decorating, skirting boards should ideally be one of the first things you put in - even before the flooring. This means you won’t have to pull the skirting back up to change the floors in the future.

If you’ve never done it before, the idea of fitting skirting boards might seem a bit daunting. But with our easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide, professional looking skirting boards are just a saw and a drill away.

Get prepared

Always make sure you've done all the necessary preparation before you start any DIY job, so you don’t waste time stopping and starting through the job.

Work through the following steps to so you can get your skirting fitted as smoothly as possible.

1. Collect everything you’ll need

Some of your equipment will depend on the type of skirting board you're using (wood or MDF) and the type of wall you are attaching it to (plasterboard or masonry).

But whatever your materials, you’ll need the following tools to fix it neatly to your walls:

 Tape measure


 Coping saw

 Mitre saw or mitre box




 Building adhesive

 Wood screws and wall plugs (for a masonry wall)

 Nail heads (for a stud wall)

 Wood filler

 Decorators caulk

 Old or protective clothing

2. Measure up

Use a tape measure to help you work out the total length of skirting you need, then add on 20% more to help you achieve a neat finish with the least number of joins. 

3. Mark your boards

Using a pencil, draw a clear arrow on the back of your boards, indicating which edge is the top of the skirting. This will help save you from making mistakes when it comes to fitting your boards to the wall.

Getting started

When fitting your skirting boards, you’ll first need to think about the corners of your wall as these are much easier to cut before you start fixing anything to the wall. 

There are two main types of corner, an internal corner and an external corner. Internal corners are the corners of your wall that point away from you while external corners are the corners of your wall that point towards you.

To help you get to grips with corners, here’s a step-by-step guide below to help you cutting them before securing the boards to the wall.

How to cut internal corners

The best way to achieve neat joins on internal corners is to fit a ‘scribed edge’ against a fitted board. A scribed edge is one that’s been cut to fit the profile of the other part of the joint.

If you feel like you need to practise, try a few test-runs on some off-cuts before cutting your join.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to scribing your internal corners:

1. Cut a 45-degree angle

First, you’ll need to cut a 45-degree angle in your board. Do this using a mitre saw or mitre box, angling your cut into the corner.

2. Colour the profile

Taking your pencil, shade a line along the forward-facing edge of your joint. This will help highlight the profile you are about to cut out.

3. Carving to fit

Secure the cut board into your workbench ready to carve out the profiled edge.

Use your coping saw to back-cut all the material behind the pencil line. You may have to adjust the blade of your coping saw – a 25-degree angle should be fine for most styles of board.

4. Fit your join

Test your scribed board against your fitted corner and use your coping saw or sandpaper to adjust until you get a snug fit.

Remember not to fit your board until you've cut for the next join.

How to cut external corners

External corners should be easier. For these you'll just need your mitre saw or box.

Always fit your external corners in pairs. It’s far easier to adjust your joins if both boards are loose, rather than cutting a second to fit. 

Here's how to measure and cut your external corners:

1. Measure and mark

Where you want your boards to join on an external angle, you need to make sure you leave enough wood when cutting the boards to ensure the edges meet.

Measure the distance from the join to the corner and mark this on the back of your board.

2. Cut your first edge

Securing your right-hand board to your work bend or slotting into your mitre box, cut a 45-degree angle away from the corner – the opposite direction from your scribed cut.

3. Cut your second edge

Taking your second board, make the same cut on the edge you want to fit the corner. Your edges should now fit together along the corner.

What if my skirting board corners aren’t right angles?

If your corners aren’t right angled, you will need to use a sliding bevel to calculate the angle of the corner. You can then cut each board at half the full angle, so they slot together neatly.

Fitting your skirting boards

When fitting your first board, start with a board that goes in with two straight-cut edges. In a standard box-shaped room, it’s usually easiest to start from the left side of the door and work your way around the room in an anti-clockwise direction.

If you have plasterboard walls, instant-grab adhesive is the easiest way to attach skirting to the walls. Simply apply blobs along the board and press it into the wall close enough for the adhesive to attach. 

For solid walls you will probably need to use a drill. To do this, run the drill through the board every 60cm so you mark the wall behind. This will then be where you fit the wall plugs. Screws should be long enough to go 3cm into the wall.

Finishing touches

Once you've fitted and secured all your board to the walls, it’s time to neaten up and fill in any gaps.

If your walls are slightly uneven, it’s normal to have slight gaps between your skirting and the wall when fitted. Use your decorators caulk to fill in these gaps, removing any excess with a damp finger to create a neat finish. 

If you’ve secured your skirting with screws, use wood filler to cover the holes before you paint.


Due to their proximity to the ground, skirting boards can get dirty or dusty fairly quickly.

It is worth wiping them down on a monthly basis with a cloth and some warm, soapy water. You can then use the brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner to do this more thoroughly.

While it’s more common to paint skirting boards using satin, eggshell or gloss paint, it is also possible to use emulsion.

One benefit is that emulsion is usually cheaper, with a finish that can still be appealing. However, you may find that your skirting boards get dirty and scuffed more easily if you use emulsion.

The emulsion will first need a dry surface to stick to. You can prepare the surface of your skirting boards by abrading them. If using old skirting boards, do ensure that you have removed any remaining gloss first, otherwise the emulsion will peel off.

You can paint your skirting boards any colour you like. However, in order to be sure you like a colour combination before you start painting, first paint a bit of leftover skirting board with two coats of your preferred colour.

Then see how it looks throughout various rooms in your house at different times of the day. This way, you’ll have a good idea of how the colour looks in different types of light.

You might find it’s best to keep to the same general colour tone as your walls, as this creates continuity. For example, if you have white walls, off-white can be a good colour for your skirting boards.

It’s often said to be safer to use white or neutral colours.  Lighter coloured skirting boards are said to make your room feel larger, while darker ones can look more contemporary and stylish.

Insuring your home

Now that you've fitted your skirting boards, look into our Home Insurance and gain peace of mind by choosing a policy that's right for you.

Insure your home with John Lewis Home Insurance by calling us on 0345 608 9001 or get a quote online.


John Lewis Finance, John Lewis Home Insurance and John Lewis & Partners are all trading names of John Lewis plc. Registered office: 171 Victoria Street, London SW1E 5NN. Registered in England and Wales (Registered Company Number 233462). John Lewis plc is an appointed representative of Munich Re Digital Partners Limited, a company authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority to carry on insurance distribution activities.

John Lewis Finance, John Lewis Insurance and John Lewis & Partners are all trading names of John Lewis plc. Registered office: 171 Victoria Street, London SW1E 5NN. Registered in England and Wales (Registered Company Number 233462). John Lewis plc is an appointed representative (Financial Conduct Authority no. 416011) of Covea Insurance plc which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (registration no. 202277). John Lewis Specialist Home Insurance is underwritten by Covea Insurance plc. Registered Office: A&B Mills, Dean Clough, Halifax, HX3 5AX. Registered in England and Wales (registration no. 613259).

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